The 2nd and 3rd questions on the November 8 Massachusetts ballot are essentially “turf wars” within particular industries: Question 2 deals with dental insurance and Question 3 deals with liquor licenses.
Question 2 would regulate dental insurance rates, by requiring companies to spend at least 83% of premiums on member dental expenses. To make sure that this happens, the Commissioner of Insurance would annually have to approve rates based on submissions that the carriers have made; the Commissioner would also be required to publish extensive data based on the filed information. (The Commissioner of Insurance already approves auto insurance, and some other rates.)
For reasons detailed below, I recommend voting “yes” on Question #2.
This particular question is — according to information published in the Boston Globe — the result of a long-running dispute between orthodontist Mouhab Rizkallah and insurer Delta Dental of Massachusetts. The Globe reports that the rift between Delta Dental and Rizkallah has been building for years:
In the past decade, Rizkallah has sued the state’s Medicaid program, MassHealth, three times, alleging among other things that it did not provide adequate orthodontic coverage to children in low-income families. Much of Rizkallah’s beef was with DentaQuest, a Delta Dental affiliate that served Medicaid patients and was sold to Sun Life for nearly $2.5 billion, in a deal announced last year after Rizkallah began his Question 2 campaign. (A spokeswoman says Delta Dental gets no revenue from MassHealth today.)
The Globe also reports that Attorney General (and soon-to-be-Governor) Maura Healey sued Dr. Rizkallah in March of 2021 for allegedly overbilling MassHealth and keeping kids in braces for far longer than they should have been. Dr. Rizkallah claims that this case was “payback” for his advocacy. The lawsuit remains unresolved.
Dr. Rizkallah and Delta Dental have apparently been the primary funders of this question. But now the Massachusetts Dental Society and the American Dental Association have joined the effort. Again, according to the Globe, the ADA believes Question 2 “can set the stage for dental insurance reform across the country, by prompting insurers to be more accountable and transparent.”
Delta Dental and the opponents of the question claim that the reform would cause costs to go up, but they don’t explain how.
So, first of all, I don’t think that many people actually have dental insurance. It’s not required, and the only time that I had it was for a brief period when I was enrolled with the National Association of Government Employees, I didn’t find it to be a great deal. Dental insurance seems to be like long-term care insurance, something which is kind of expensive, with high deductibles.
I’m not sure this question is going to change that.
But, certainly dental insurance should be better-regulated, just like other kinds of insurance, and I don’t see a big downside here. If it turns out that there are issues with the question, the legislature can always pass a correction, just like they did with the question regulating the production of eggs (and which almost caused an egg shortage in Massachusetts).
For the reasons above, I recommend voting “yes” on Question #2 (but, I must admit, without great enthusiasm).